In the end poor free throw shooting and several missed lay-up opportunities were two of the primary reasons the Lady Bisons dropped a 72-69 decision to Tennessee State Saturday night at the Gentry Center.
“It’s the little things,” said Lady Bisons coach Frank Bennett. “We missed a number of free throws and a number of shots around the basket in the second half.
“For the first 30 minutes we kept them off of the second shots. They were getting the second shots in the final 10 minutes.”
In the first half the Lady Bisons went into their dressing room with a 31-30 advantage thanks to a lay-up by Brittany Duerk with 55 seconds left.
In the second half the Lady Bisons gave up a lay-up to TSU’s Simone Hopes to give the home team a 32-31 advantage. The Lady Bisons came right back with a 3-pointer from Hannah Phillips for a 34-32 lead 35 seconds into the second half.
From that point the Lady Bisons took control and steadily built on their lead.
A pair of free throws by Valerie Bronson at 15:28 gave the Lady Bisons a 44-34 lead. The Lady Bisons stayed kept a double figures advantage, twice leading by 14 points, until there was 8:28 left to play. Kesi Hess connected on a 3-pointer for TSU to cut Lady Bisons lead to eight points.
Ironically, TSU never got the lead in the final minutes, but they did manage to tie the game at 62-62 on a lay-up by Denisha Mumford with 22 seconds left.
In the final six seconds the Lady Bisons missed three shots, a 3-point attempt by Miaca Bowman, a lay-up by Morgan Faulkner and a lay-up by Bronson.
“It got really physical,” said Bennett. “We have to handle that better. I think they rattled us a little bit with the physical play.
“If we make the free throws and a couple of layups it’s our game. We had a wide-open three and some second shots to win it in regulation.”
Neither team was able to make quick move in overtime. With 3:34 left to play TSU’s Obiageli Okafor got the first points with two free throws. She followed with a lay-up with 2:50 on the clock.
Leah McAlister answered for the Lady Bisons with a 3-point shot with 2:31 remaining. But TSU came back with a lay-up by Hopes and another free throw from Okafor.
Bronson hit a free throw to cut TSU’s lead to 69-66 with 47 seconds to go. The Lady Bisons missed three opportunities to tie the game before TSU’s LaDona Pierce hit a free throw to make it 70-66 with five seconds left.
With two seconds on the clock Faulkner found the range on a 3-pointer. Pierce then missed two free throws for TSU. With one second left the Lady Bisons tried a desperation shot that failed to find its mark.
Bronson led the Lady Bisons in scoring with 13 points. Bowers added 12 and Faulkner chipped in with 10. Faulkner also led the Lady Bisons in rebounding with seven.
“Morgan has a lot of offensive skills,” said Bennett. “She is a good passer. She had a big 3-pointer. She was used to being that player that her team went to in those situations in high school. She has confidence in those situations.”
Okafor led all scorers with 26 points. She also grabbed a game-high nine rebounds. Hopes added 10 for TSU.
TSU, voted the third best team in the Ohio Valley Conference in a preseason poll, is 2-3. The Lady Bisons are 2-5.
The Lady Bisons are back in action Monday on the road at Tennessee Tech in Cookeville, another OVC team. The tip-off is set for 8 p.m.
“Both of us have a quick turnaround,” said Bennett. “It will be a hard-fought game.”